By Terry Magee
Peace. Everyone claims they are seeking it, yet it remains elusive. We pray for peace in our country as we hear more stories of violence. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, even as the region remains embroiled in conflict and steadily heightened tensions. World leaders claim to be working for peace yet pursue their own best interests.
Even Jesus did not bring peace in the way the world expected. Neither did he intend to, for he said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). The worldwide persecution of believers and conflict of values demonstrates the truth of this statement, as Christians remain at odds with the world system.
We are told that peace is a fruit of the Spirit, a gift from God. Yet if we face conflict with those around us, and the world is continually ready to burst into flames, how is this peace to be realized?
Paul told in Galatians that we will receive peace through the Spirit. This will be a spiritual peace, not peace with the world. For the world will remain in opposition to God. But through God’s Spirit, we should experience peace in Christ. This spiritual peace can be described in three aspects: transactional peace, positional peace, and relational peace.
Transactional peace is recognizing that Christ has done everything on our behalf for salvation and there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation with God. Indeed, our debt that Christ paid on the cross is too high for us to begin to pay it back. This act of salvation which produces transactional peace can be referred to as justification. Justification is a legal transaction whereby God considers our sins forgiven and imputes Christ’s righteousness to us. This is a one-time transaction completed in Christ.
When we recognize that God has done everything for us regarding salvation and we decide to accept God’s gift, we are set free from the expectation of working for our salvation. This understanding produces peace, if we allow it to enter our lives. Too often human nature seeks to pay God back or somehow try to cover our own salvation, but to do so is to reject God’s gift to us.
We can trust that Christ’s action has removed us beyond the reach of those who would accuse and condemn us. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:33, 34).
The transaction completed on the cross negated the need for any additional sacrifices, as well as removed God’s punishment from our lives: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Unlike the old covenant, which required an annual Day of Atonement, Jesus’ one transaction is good for all eternity. We can experience the peace that only Christ could purchase and only God can secure.
Before we were in Christ, we were enemies with God due to our sin. We had no relationship with God. Sin erected a barrier that our greatest efforts could not overcome. Imagine living in opposition to the most powerful being in existence. This is a battle we certainly lose. This sin barrier placed us in a hopeless position regarding our eternity with God.
Yet God in his love removed that barrier through Christ on the cross. Once we are in Christ, our position with God changes from one of enmity to one of fellowship. God has done so much more than merely saving us from his judgment—he has brought us into fellowship with himself! We experience this fellowship because God sees us not in our sin but in Christ.
Our entire position regarding God has changed. “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10). This positional change produces peace, as we are no longer in a position of conflict with God.
Yet there is even more God has done in our new position in Christ. “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:7). God has adopted us, making us coheirs with Christ. Our position is more than as a servant, but as a son. Recognizing this truth about our full position should lead to peace, as God has moved us into close fellowship with himself.
Once we understand the completeness of God’s salvation and the fullness of God’s fellowship, we must learn the permanence of God’s relationship. What God does for us and in us he does for eternity. It can be said that God’s ongoing work in our lives is preparing us to be with him throughout eternity.
Much has been written about the seeming distance of God. We may not see large demonstrations of great physical miracles as God did in the Old Testament. God is not walking in human form as when Jesus was on earth. God’s presence can seem fleeting to us. People even accuse God of not showing up during hard times.
But Scripture teaches that God is with us. Jesus at the Last Supper promised God’s presence in our lives: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever” (John 14:16). Jesus knew he was leaving the disciples and returning to the Father. So he promised the Holy Spirit as our companion in his absence.
We can know peace from the last phrase “be with you forever.” This was a new way of God working with humanity. In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God came upon people for a time and then left again. But Jesus now promises a permanent ongoing relationship with God through the Holy Spirit. Just as Christ is our advocate before the Father in Heaven, the Holy Spirit is our companion on earth.
We are never alone. God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and this promise is fulfilled through the indwelling Holy Spirit. We can derive peace from living the truth that we are in relationship with God and he is always with us.
Peace That the Spirit Brings
It is impossible to sustain peace in this world. Any set of situations is ready to explode, and circumstances bombard us with conflict and strife. Our only hope for peace is in Christ.
God is ready to provide that peace through his Spirit. In fact, experiencing God’s peace is part of the fruit we receive in the Spirit. This is not a peace we can accomplish on our own; it comes only from God. This spiritual peace is one of the markers of our spiritual maturity.
Our search for peace on earth will be futile. Our search for peace through Christ can provide us with inner calm through the conflicts of life. Like salvation, this peace is a gift of God and not something we can achieve. Also like our salvation, this peace is a gift we cannot purchase and can only accept.
Too many people have not accepted God’s full gift of peace. They may know transactional peace through salvation. They may have a basic positional peace, knowing they are adopted children of God. But too many people operate as though God’s fellowship comes and goes. They do not experience God’s relationship on a continual basis.
This tragedy robs people of the peace they can experience right now, every day with God. While we recognize that life with God in the future will be wonderful beyond our comprehension, we need not wait for all the blessings. God sealed us with his Holy Spirit at the time of our salvation as a down payment on those eternal blessings. We can enjoy God’s peace today—not just the knowledge of our eternal standing with God, but walking with God every moment of our lives. We can know God’s peace as we live in intimate relationship with him.
Terry Magee lives with his wife in Pennsylvania where he teaches at his church and is learning to appreciate God’s peace in his life.